The fall of Fort Bravo is what I think I will call this story. I wrote before about Sergeant Herman and his Ragtag Army who had built them a fort in the sawdust pile. They were doing good until an old drunk used it for a hideout from the law and his wife. He almost suffocated when Herman’s raiders covered him up in his box with sawdust. He gave up the fort and the Ragtag Army took over.
At the end of Armstrong Street was a place that manufactured socks. They threw out a lot of scrap wood and stuff from boxes. We began to get the wood we needed to build us a good fort. We covered the floor with flat rocks that we got from the creek. One of the men who worked at the sock factory gave us a sack of concrete. We leveled it over the rock in the floor and made a smooth finish. We doubled the insulation of the sawdust. Herman got a small stove from his mother, unknown to her, and we set it up. We gathered wood and would sit around a table we made and drink water. Herman still managed to bring some candy and we would have a party.
The hot days began to cool down and our parents would not let us outside after we got home from school. We got us a lock and locked up Fort Bravo for the winter months. As I remember, it was one of those cold, wet winters. We stayed in the house, unable to sneak out and go to Fort Bravo. Then the weather took a turn and the Ragtag Army marched back to occupy Fort Bravo. I remember the surprise when we found our lock torn off the door and another in its place. We took care of the lock with a big rock. With the door open, we went in. We stopped in our tracks, for someone was living in our fort.
There were three beds all made up and chairs sitting around a table. A small icebox sat on a box. There were several lanterns hanging from the ceiling. I opened the icebox and it was full of food. I looked at Herman, shaking my head. We moved back over to the door and stood looking at the inside of our hut we called Fort Bravo.
Then from outside a voice said, “Boys, I hope you got a good excuse for breaking into this ladies house.” I looked up and standing in the doorway was one of the biggest policemen I had ever seen. We were trying to tell him that this was our hut. We built it and it was not her house. She kept on saying, “You are lying! This is my house.”
The officer knew us boys and told his partner he would be back in a few minutes. He headed for Herman’s house. He brought back Herman’s mother. She set the police and the woman who kept calling us liars straight. She showed them the lock that the woman had torn from the door.
The woman finally admitted that when we stopped coming to play in our fort she and her two kids had moved in. She had got thrown out of her house because she couldn’t pay the rent. Seeing this place, she and her kids had lived here all winter. It was warm and dry and we had stacked up a pile of firewood. We agreed that she could live at Fort Bravo until she found another place.
She was in no hurry to find a place to live. She took and put two new hasps on the door. When she left she put two locks on the door. She had no worries for there was no one among us who would go in without our mothers with us. Time drug on, summer was almost gone, but still she stayed on at Fort Bravo.
I had just got home when Herman came and got me. He said that the woman had moved from Fort Bravo. We got there as fast as we could. The door stood open. There in the middle of the floor was all the furniture laying in pieces. The stove had been busted along with other things. The inside was in a mess. We decided since there was no school the next day we would build it back.
I woke up the next morning with sirens and fire trucks going to the sawdust pile. Fort Bravo was on fire. It took water being poured on the sawdust most of the day to get it out. It was determined that it was caused by kerosene being poured on the tore up chairs lying in the middle of the floor. Everyone suspected the woman coming back and set-ting it on fire. She was mad at us boys for taking her house, which was our hut or Fort Bravo, as we called it.